First, I think old ghazals had no discipline. People sang them without realising they were ghazals. Also they were not sufficiently structured. Now, if you think back, most popular Hindi film songs from the 1950s were based on ghazals. If you hear any old Hemant Kumar number, say Yaad kiya dil ne kahan ho tum, they were mostly ghazals. Composer Madan Mohan set so many ghazals to his inimitable tunes. To give just some examples, Yun hasraton ke daag or Mai re main kaase kahun peer. Even then ghazals were preferred because they reflected sensible poetry, there was no silly tukbandi (rhyming). When I branched out on my own, I was determined to polish up the genre and make it more acceptable to modern tastes. I read ghazals thoroughly and in my early years I would select classics by Ghalib, Mir, Jigar, Firaq and Daagh.
Later, I turned to more contemporary writers like Nida Fazli, Wasim Brelvi and Bashir Badr. My knowledge of Urdu being limited, I chose only simple poems and set them to simple tunes. I also introduced Western instrumentation to make the overall effect livelier. Incidentally, that idea I borrowed from film music, it wasn’t exactly original. As I said, 50s’ compositions were mainly ghazal-based but had Western style instrumentation.